Warning over binge-drinking parents
Nearly one in three children lives with a parent who is a binge drinker, research has shown.
The figure equates to between 3.3 million and 3.5 million children in the United Kingdom living with at least one parent who downs six or more drinks on a single occasion for women or eight for men.
Around 93,500 babies aged under 12 months in the UK are living with a parent who is classified as a "hazardous" drinker (increasing the risk of harm to oneself or others), according to studies by the Community Research Company and used by the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC).
Approximately 31,000 babies under a year live with a parent who would be classified as a "dependent" drinker. The OCC has published a report - Silent Voices: supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol misuse - highlighting the extent of the problem.
Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "The effects of parents' alcohol misuse on children may be hidden for years, while children try both to cope with the impact on them, and manage the consequences for their families. Our research gives a timely reality check, but more importantly a fresh perspective by drawing attention to what children say about the problems it causes in their own lives, now.
"It does not concern only child protection professionals, though alcohol abuse can put children's safety at sustained, serious risk. The problem affects large numbers of children who never come to the notice of children's social care. They should not need to do so if there are services prepared to support them and their families at an earlier stage."
The report's recommendations are directed at Government, policy makers, health and social care professionals, and those who commission and provide local services.
The OCC said during the last 10 to 15 years improvements have been made. "Despite this, there remain limitations to the progress made in respect of alcohol misuse," the OCC said. "The improvement in support for children requires a co-ordinated, collaborative approach. It is a problem with which parents must seek help, and one we all need to address."
A Government spokesman said: "Our reforms are focused on cutting unnecessary bureaucracy so professionals can identify and tackle problems as early as possible.
"By overhauling the alcohol licensing laws, local communities will have more power to tackle problem pubs and clubs. We are working with the alcohol industry which has pledged to take one billion units out of the UK's alcohol intake and introduce a minimum unit price."